AC Hahn, LM DeBruine & BC Jones (2015). Reported maternal tendencies predict the reward value of infant facial cuteness, but not cuteness detection. Biology Letters, 11: . doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0978

The factors that contribute to individual differences in the reward value of cute infant facial characteristics are poorly understood. Here we show that the effect of cuteness on a behavioral measure of the reward value of infant faces is greater among women reporting strong maternal tendencies. By contrast, maternal tendencies did not predict women’s subjective ratings of the cuteness of these infant faces. These results show, for the first time, that the reward value of infant facial cuteness is greater among women who report being more interested in interacting with infants, implicating maternal tendencies in individual differences in the reward value of infant cuteness. Moreover, our results indicate that the relationship between maternal tendencies and the reward value of infant facial cuteness is not due to individual differences in women’s ability to detect infant cuteness. This latter result suggests that individual differences in the reward value of infant cuteness are not simply a byproduct of low cost, functionless biases in the visual system.

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